31 Nights of Horror (#4) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at giallo horror flick, Nightmare City!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a plane makes an emergency landing, it soon unleashes its cargo of blood-thirty, irradiated mutants upon the world in Nightmare City.


Brought to us by director Umberto Lenzi, Nightmare City is yet another zombie-not-a-zombie movie. Its monsters, for the most part, look and act like any other George Romero-styled zombies. They feast on living people. They multiply by infecting those they injure but fail to kill. And these creatures can only be killed with a bullet to the brain.

Like Romero’s films, the creatures are never called zombies. But unlike those movies, the creatures in Nightmare City are not the living dead. They’re people altered through radiation. They can use complex tools and weapons. They can even operate vehicles.

And the reason I mention all this is because despite having such incredibly dangerous monsters, not much is really done with them.

The vast majority of the film is spent highlighting a location–an airport, a TV studio, a house–and then unleashing this army of mutants on unsuspecting victims. They bite, claw, stab, and shoot everyone in their path until no one is left alive. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But then why make the monsters so functionally human only to utilize them like any other stereotypical ghoul?

OH, **** YOU

And this really does highlight the issue plaguing Nightmare City. Despite such a great twist on a common idea readily abused by the giallo subgenre of horror, Lenzi and company didn’t bother to do anything with it. There’s nothing unique or creative done with any of the movie’s otherwise creative ideas.

The monsters are more than a mindless horde driven by their desire for human blood. The main character is a TV news reporter constantly at odds with his producer over ethics in journalism. And this character’s wife is a prominent doctor at a major hospital.

So why is the wife nothing more than a character in need of being saved? Why is nothing made of this conflict of a reporter trying to warn the public of a very real, very deadly threat in the face of a government cover-up? Why are these bloodthirsty, violent people capable of devising and executing a tactical strike against all of humanity still used like little more than bread-dead zombies?

The cheesy violence, music, and performances fans might expect of the giallo style is present. And there’s plenty of fun to be had with such things.

But between a refusal to do anything different with all the great ideas present in the material and an incredibly lazy and insulting ending, even the most dedicated horror fan would be better off watching any of the other more experimental movies available in the genre.

Unless you’ve already burned through the rest of back-catalog of horror movies, City of Nightmares is a NO CHILL.

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